In Gela one of the most innovative biorefineries in Europe

Eni’s plant in Gela processes used vegetable and cooking oils, animal fats and waste to produce high quality biofuels.

The biorefinery

Launched in August 2019, the plant has a processing capacity of up to 750,000 tonnes a year and will be able to treat larger and larger quantities of used vegetable and frying oil, animal fats and waste/advanced by-products to produce high-quality biofuels. A total of more than 360 million euros has so far been spent on the conversion of the refinery and the ancillaries units. In March 2021, 18 months after the bio-refinery was opened, the new Biomass Treatment Unit (BTU) begins production, allowing up to 100% of raw material waste to be used for biofuel production, to create a zero-kilometre circular economy model for the production of biodiesel, bio-naphtha, bioLPG and bio-jet. The Gela biorefinery will also be supplied with castor oil, thanks to the experimental project to cultivate castor plants in the semi-desert in Tunisia thus completely replacing palm oil.

The plant’s construction began in early 2020 and despite slowdowns caused by the management of activities during the pandemic, the vast majority of the project was completed on schedule. 1.3 million hours were worked, with zero accidents for both Eni people and contract workers.

Our bio-refinery in Gela is designed for treating advanced and unconventional loads up to 100% of processing capacity. It is one of the few bio-refineries in the world with such high operating flexibility. Gela is defined by its ability to process "unconventional" second-generation raw material from food production waste, regenerated used cooking oil (RUCO), animal fats (tallow) and by-products from processing vegetable oil.  This makes it an innovative plant with high environmental sustainability that can process loads that would otherwise be disposed of as waste – to the cost of the community and the environment – using them instead for biofuel. In 2021 the incidence rate of palm oil supplied for the production of biodiesel was reduced by approximately 34 percentage points compared to 2020, leveraging on the start-up of a new Biomass Treatment Unit (BTU) at the Gela biorefinery, enabling the use of up to 100% of biomass not in competition with the food chain for the production of biofuels.  In 2021, production of biofuels (HVO) amounted to approximately 585 ktonnes according to certifications in use (European RED and related directives) and the volumes of biofuels processed from vegetable oil were 665 mmtonnes down by 6% from the previous period. Since October 2022, Eni has phased out the use of oil palm, well ahead the EU regulations due to apply from January 2023. The last loads have reached the Gela refinery over the last few weeks.

Vegetable oil for biorefining from Kenya to Gela’s biorefinery

The first load of vegetable oil produced by Eni at the Makueni agri-hub will be arriving at the Gela biorefinery in November. The plant in Kenya, pressing castor, croton and cotton seeds was inaugurated in July 2022. These are agri-feedstocks not competing with the food supply chain, cultivated in degraded areas, harvested from spontaneous trees or resulting from agricultural by-product valorisation, which offer income opportunities and market access to thousands of farmers. The country's agri-feedstocks, where production will reach 2,500 tons of oil by the end of 2022 and 20,000 tons in 2023, will combine with the collection of waste and residues, including used vegetable oils, collected in Kenya: the first of these consignments will soon be arriving in Italy and are expected to reach up to 5,000 tons in 2023.

The development of SAF biofuels

The development of biofuels is one of the drivers of Eni’s energy transition path based on the circular economy. This target leverages on our two distinctive biorefineries in Gela and Venice, characterized by cutting-edge proprietary technologies and steady product and process improvements. In 2021, started the production of sustainable aviation fuels “SAF” (sustainable aviation fuels) from “UCO” raw materials (waste oils and other waste) not in competition with the food chain, by applying the proprietary technologies of traditional refining. The production of SAF is expected to ramp-up with about 10 thousand tons/year through co-feeding of the oil-loaded plants with UCO, until the start-up in 2024 of the Eni Biojet project at the Gela biorefinery. This latter will allow to sale additional 150 thousand tons/year of SAF, being entirely produced from organic raw materials, able to meet the potential obligation of the Italian market for 2025. 

The environmental impact

Building the bio-refinery guarantees improvement in all environmental fields, emitting more than 70% fewer emissions (of SO2, NOx, CO and dust) than traditional production cycles. With regards to the complex framework of land redevelopment activities, we are continuing soil and groundwater remediation and decommissioning activities. The skyline of the industrial area is set to improve with the planned interventions to decommission the old plants, including those that have a strong visual impact, such as the Snox chimney and the ex flare that have already been completed. To date, almost 6,900 tons of scrap metal, engines and electric cables have been sent for recovery, and will have a second lease on life in the civil and industrial sectors.

The Ecofining plant

To create the Ecofining™ plant, we modified the two existing desulphuration units and built a steam reforming unit to produce hydrogen. Hydrogen is a basic ingredient in hydrogenated vegetable oil (HVO), the biodiesel that, when added to fossil diesel at 15%, makes the premium fuel Enidiesel.

The Waste-to-Fuel plant

In addition to the new biorefinery, the site also houses the Waste-to-Fuel pilot plant used to test the Eni proprietary technology, which can transform organic waste into bio-oil and bio-methane and recover the water naturally contained therein. The test phase, completed in April 2022, was conducted by our environmental company Eni Rewind through treatment campaigns of municipal waste supplied by the consortium Company regulating the Ragusa waste management service. The test results have contributed to the  improvement of the proprietary technology and its development on an industrial scale.

2021 Eni Local Sustainability Report for Gela

Each year, we publish a comprehensive report on the activities of Eni companies at the Gela site to highlight the contribution to the path towards Just Transition undertaken by Eni. In particular, the Gela 2021 Local Sustainability Report concerns the most innovative biorefinery plant in Europe, and the multiple initiatives undertaken under the circular economy and local redevelopment framework, which make Gela a true excellence. The document shows how respecting and protecting people and environmental resources is a prerogative to create long-term value and achieve the business objectives. Lastly, great emphasis is given to local stakeholders, who are involved and enhanced through numerous alliances and agreements.

The document forms part of Eni’s sustainability reporting, which also includes the 2021 Consolidated Disclosure of Non-Financial Information (NFI), drafted in accordance with Legislative Decree 254/2016, and Eni’s 2021 Sustainability Report. These can be consulted for further information.

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